Publication Details

String constraints with concatenation and transducers solved efficiently

HOLÍK Lukáš, JANKŮ Petr, LIN Anthony W., RUMMER Philipp and VOJNAR Tomáš. String constraints with concatenation and transducers solved efficiently. Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages, vol. 2, no. 2, 2018, pp. 96-127. ISSN 2475-1421. Available from:
Czech title
Řetězcová omezení s konkatenací a převodníky řešena efektivně
journal article
Holík Lukáš, doc. Mgr., Ph.D. (DITS FIT BUT)
Janků Petr, Ing. (DITS FIT BUT)
Lin Anthony W. (UOx)
Rummer Philipp (Uppsala)
Vojnar Tomáš, prof. Ing., Ph.D. (DITS FIT BUT)

Alternating Finite Automata, Decision Procedure, IC3, String Solving


String analysis is the problem of reasoning about how strings are manipulated by a program. It has numerous applications including automatic detection of cross-site scripting, and automatic test-case generation. A popular string analysis technique includes symbolic executions, which at their core use constraint solvers over the string domain, a.k.a. string solvers. Such solvers typically reason about constraints expressed in theories over strings with the concatenation operator as an atomic constraint. In recent years, researchers started to recognise the importance of incorporating the replace-all operator (i.e. replace all occurrences of a string by another string) and, more generally, finite-state transductions in the theories of strings with concatenation. Such string operations are typically crucial for reasoning about XSS vulnerabilities in web applications, especially for modelling sanitisation functions and implicit browser transductions (e.g. innerHTML). Although this results in an undecidable theory in general, it was recently shown that the straight-line fragment of the theory is decidable, and is sufficiently expressive in practice. In this paper, we provide the first string solver that can reason about constraints involving both concatenation and finite-state transductions. Moreover, it has a completeness and termination guarantee for several important fragments (e.g. straight-line fragment). The main challenge addressed in the paper is the prohibitive worst-case complexity of the theory (double-exponential time), which is exponentially harder than the case without finite-state transductions. To this end, we propose a method that exploits succinct alternating finite-state automata as concise symbolic representations of string constraints. In contrast to previous approaches using nondeterministic automata, alternation offers not only exponential savings in space when representing Boolean combinations of transducers, but also a possibility of succinct representation of otherwise costly combinations of transducers and concatenation. Reasoning about the emptiness of the AFA language requires a state-space exploration in an exponential-sized graph, for which we use model checking algorithms (e.g. IC3). We have implemented our algorithm and demonstrated its efficacy on benchmarks that are derived from cross-site scripting analysis and other examples in the literature.

Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages, vol. 2, no. 2, ISSN 2475-1421
Association for Computing Machinery
EID Scopus
   author = "Luk\'{a}\v{s} Hol\'{i}k and Petr Jank\r{u} and W. Anthony Lin and Philipp Rummer and Tom\'{a}\v{s} Vojnar",
   title = "String constraints with concatenation and transducers solved efficiently",
   pages = "96--127",
   journal = "Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages",
   volume = 2,
   number = 2,
   year = 2018,
   ISSN = "2475-1421",
   doi = "10.1145/3158092",
   language = "english",
   url = ""
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